Asia stocks higher, NZ dollar surges after small rate cut

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO

TOKYO (AP) — Asian stock markets were mostly higher Thursday after Greece passed another bailout hurdle and New Zealand cut interest rates.

KEEPING SCORE: Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 edged up 0.4 percent to 20,675.04 and Hong Kong's Hang Seng added 0.7 percent to 25,469.62. The Shanghai Composite index gained 1 percent to 4,066.55. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 inched down 0.2 percent to 5,601.80. South Korea's Kospi slipped nearly 0.2 percent to 2,061.34. Markets in Southeast Asia were mostly higher.

KIWI FLIES: The New Zealand dollar, also known as the Kiwi, jumped as much as 1.2 percent after the country's central bank cut interest rates by a smaller-than-expected quarter percentage point. Expectations were for a half percentage point cut. The central bank indicated it expected inflation to return to near its targets next year, which reduces the chance of further interest rate cuts that would weigh on the currency.

THE QUOTE: "Caution is a likely byword for trading today. Copper and oil remain under significant pressure, reflecting worries about the outlook for industrial demand as well as the potential for strength in the U.S. dollar," said Michael McCarthy, chief strategist at CMC Markets in Sydney.

GREECE CRISIS: Greece's parliament approved new creditor-demanded reforms despite a revolt among hardliners in the ruling coalition. The reforms to the judiciary and banking systems were the final hurdle the financially-battered country was obliged to clear before it can start talks with its creditors on a third bailout worth around 85 billion euros ($93 billion). Without the money Greece would face financial ruin and forced exit from the euro currency club.

WALL STREET: U.S. stocks notched their second decline Wednesday, pulled down by a technology stock slump headlined by Apple and Microsoft. Both companies delivered disappointing quarterly results or outlooks the night before, setting the stage for the sell-off in technology shares. The Dow Jones industrial average fell 68.25 points, or 0.4 percent, to 17,851.04. The Standard & Poor's 500 lost 5.06 points, or 0.2 percent, to 2,114.15. The Nasdaq composite shed 36.35 points, or 0.7 percent, to 5,171.77.

ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude was up 11 cents to $49.30 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract fell $1.67 to close at $49.19 on Wednesday. Brent crude, a benchmark for international oils, was unchanged at $56.13 a barrel in London.

CURRENCIES: The dollar fell to 123.98 yen from 124.03 yen in the previous global trading session. The euro rose to $1.0945 from $1.0926.